|Lottery bid aims for regeneration not destruction|
Chiswick House Trust denies accusations of vandalism and secrecy
The Chiswick House and Gardens Trust has hit back at accusations that they are "operating under a veil of secrecy" and states that their revised £12 million bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is vital to not only preserve but also to secure the future Chiswick House and Gardens.
This statement follows rumours of mass tree felling and demolition of historic kitchen gardens for vast car parks being published in local and national press and accusations that the Trust is acting in secret against the best interests of the iconic palladian villa and it's grounds.
If the Trust's Heritage Lottery Fund bid is successful, the much needed funds will finance the first phase of the regeneration project, which will include the restoration of the conservatory, the landscaped gardens around the house and many historic features contained within.
Of the three main spaces behind the conservatory, the first would be restored for horticultural and educational use, the second would be retained as a sports facility for local use, and the derelict allotment north of this, is proposed to be used as an occasional events car park and for a wide range of other events such as art shows or plant fairs. These plans will also provide an opportunity to restore the historic layout of all three gardens and provide public access to this space, previously closed to visitors.
Debbie Holden of English Heritage said "This is first and foremost a public park and we are committed to increasing access to the park for all sectors of the community. Throughout the project, consultation with those people who use the park has been key to developing our proposals. Local opinion has been sought throughout the process in a variety of ways, including, since 1996, five surveys, two public exhibitions, and two workshops. In addition to this, the Chiswick House Friends have been involved throughout. In the early stages, their Chair sat on the project team and more recently was appointed as a member of the new Chiswick House and Gardens Trust. In September of this year, the views of many people were gathered by professional market researchers at the Chiswick Festival – an example of local consultation in action.
"We are now about to embark on the next phase of public consultation on the proposals, prior to the HLF’s stage 1 decision on the bid for the first phase of the project in January 2006. Over the coming months, further consultation will include a public exhibition of the proposals in Chiswick Library; further information relating to the HLF bid available on the web, a local community stakeholder meeting; an open meeting for members of Chiswick House Friends; and other opportunities to meet members of the project team. Dates and venues for these events will be announced in the coming weeks. These proposals submitted in this initial (stage 1) bid to the HLF are outline proposals. There is still time and space for discussion and adaptation."
Talking about the future, Holden continued "Once the park is restored, we must ensure it has a sustainable future. Hospitality, which includes weddings and other charging events such as opera, will be important sources of income, which will operate alongside free day to day access to the gardens. We welcome healthy debate. Together, we will be able to secure the future of this important public park and preserve a living piece of local history. This is a very exciting opportunity to return a gem of a landscape to its original 18th century splendour."